When I first ran for school board in 2017, I was concerned about climate change personally but honestly didn’t understand what role I could play as a school board member.

Once elected, I realized that our school district — like most school districts — is one of the largest landowners, real estate developers, transportation providers and employers in our community. This gives me — and school board members across the country — tremendous influence to lead positive change for climate action and climate justice.

But making large changes to public infrastructure is difficult. For example, it took my school district about five years to purchase one electric bus.

Yet I know we can act with urgency when needed: During the pandemic, I watched as we mobilized massive change over days and weeks.

With the latest international climate change report stating that we only have a few years before we reach a disaster tipping point, we must act with urgency from the position of power we have.

The confluence of many school districts’ aging infrastructure and the need to become more resilient to the negative effects of climate change has motivated school boards to become more innovative and knowledgeable about building, replacing and remodeling. That includes everything from updating heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems, to electrifying school bus fleets, to insisting on sustainable packaging for the goods we purchase.

We have an opportunity like no other time in history to help reshape an educational environment so that it encompasses clean water and healthy air as well as job opportunities and safe places to work, live and play.

We also have a responsibility to ensure those improvements happen equitably and don’t perpetuate the climate injustice that already plagues our nation’s cities.

Read the full article about how school boards can tackle climate change by Carrie Douglass at The Hechinger Report.